Changing the world (part 2) – do companies really want to be great?

Do companies really want to be great?

I wonder when people read Jim Collins’ bestselling ‘Good to Great’, or pay a large amount of money to see him speak at a conference whether they are just interested in the answer – for the sake of knowing the answer, or whether they really want to understand the answer so that they can actually become a great company.

The more I see of corporate life, the more I think it is the former.

Very few companies want to be great.

Companies say they want to be great. But they don’t really.

The reality is that they want to be OK companies. Better than most of the competition companies, target meeting companies, but not necessarily the best.

I don’t blame them. Being great is not easy. Statistically, it is downright hard and by definition, very few will achieve it. Setting the highest goal for your company means hard work, dedication, an unyielding focus, sacrifice and sweat. When it comes down to it – this is not what most companies want. They want to be ok, so they compromise.

They compromise on salary, so don’t attract the best candidates. 

They compromise on equipment budgets, so don’t buy cheaper kit.

They compromise on trust and freedom, so never fully empower the potential in their employees.

And then they look at those that do succeed and think that they were close. That it could have been them.


Completely wrong.

This thinking is as misplaced as the teenage athlete who quits training when the going gets tough, but believed that they could have won the Olympic gold (if they had just continued).


At the point they didn’t continue; at the point they finished training early; at the point a recoverable injury stopped them, they showed they did NOT have the ability to be the best.

They proved they could not be great.

And the same is true with companies.

When they deliver a me-too mediocre product.

When they knowingly cut corners on quality

When they hire second best

They are quitting training early. That is OK. You can do something else. You can be good. You can be successful. You can still meet your targets.

The one thing is that you cannot be though … is great.

This is fine. Just don’t lie about wanting to be great though.


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